ANZ won't intervene to help Timbercorp victims

Angry: Protesters outside the Melbourne Town Hall during the Senate hearing into the collapse of Timbercorp. Photo: Josh Robenstone
Angry: Protesters outside the Melbourne Town Hall during the Senate hearing into the collapse of Timbercorp. Photo: Josh Robenstone
Angry: Protesters outside the Melbourne Town Hall during the Senate hearing into the collapse of Timbercorp. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Angry: Protesters outside the Melbourne Town Hall during the Senate hearing into the collapse of Timbercorp. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Angry: Protesters outside the Melbourne Town Hall during the Senate hearing into the collapse of Timbercorp. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Angry: Protesters outside the Melbourne Town Hall during the Senate hearing into the collapse of Timbercorp. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Angry: Protesters outside the Melbourne Town Hall during the Senate hearing into the collapse of Timbercorp. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Angry: Protesters outside the Melbourne Town Hall during the Senate hearing into the collapse of Timbercorp. Photo: Josh Robenstone

ANZ chairman David Gonski has told Timbercorp investors the bank will not intervene in the recalling of loans worth millions of dollars, despite the hardship faced by victims of the collapsed scheme.

ANZ was one of the financiers of the agribusiness spruiker and is set to receive about $195 million through the recalling of loans by liquidator KordaMentha.

Mr Gonski said it was not up to the bank to intervene in the recalling of loans, which was putting investors at risk of becoming bankrupt or losing their homes.

"Some grower investors have called for ANZ to forgive or reduce loan balances still owed," he said at the bank's annual meeting.

"ANZ is not by law able to direct the liquidator in their discharge of their duties."

He said ANZ did not lend directly to any Timbercorp grower investors, nor did any ANZ financial planners provide advice on Timbercorp.

"However, a business that ANZ subsequently acquired full control and ownership of, ING Australia, did have third-party financial planners who advised directly to invest in Timbercorp.

"We've engaged an external third party to undertake a thorough review of the files of these customers. While not yet complete, they have found no material issues."

Mr Gonski's comments come in the face of fierce criticism of the bank's role in financing the forestry scheme, with a Senate inquiry hearing last month suggesting it ignored early warning signs that the scheme was in trouble.

Mr Gonski said the bank refuted the claims.

A second hearing is scheduled for February.

Timbercorp victims protested outside the ANZ meeting, calling on the lender to acknowledge its role in financing the loans.

The ANZ board is also facing criticism from the Financial Sector Union for failing to give employees a fair work agreement despite its record $7.3 billion profit.

Timbercorp investors face financial hardship as liquidators recall a combined $394 million in outstanding loans owed to creditors, including ANZ.

The bank is being urged to help broker settlements with the investors, whose loans have ballooned because of heavy interest and penalty rates.

On Wednesday, investors called on ANZ to acknowledge its fiduciary duty as financier and appoint an external investigator to look into fraud and misconduct at the scheme.

"I just want to make them realise that they're hurting common people," one investor, Bernard Kelly, said.

"If their profits have to come at the cost of us losing our houses, where's the decency?"

KordaMentha had been issuing up to 70 writs a week to Timbercorp investor growers to get in before a statute of limitations kicks in next year. Senator Sam Dastyari has been vocal in calling on KordaMentha and ANZ to go easy on the victims.

Meanwhile, Mr Gonski said the bank's outlook remained strong despite the downturn in the resources sector.

"ANZ is well positioned to maintain its momentum," he said.

This story ANZ won't intervene to help Timbercorp victims first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.